The Chief Ethics Officer under Republican President George W. Bush, Richard Painter, has called out the hypocrisy of Republicans calling for a second Special Counsel to investigate Special Council Robert Mueller and his team for supposed conflicts of interest and bias against Donald Trump.
The Republican lawmakers and President Trump’s lawyers have been turning up the volume on their complaints about Mueller as the Special Counsel’s investigation has turned up a mountain of evidence that has already resulted in four indictments – including President Trump’s friend and former National Security Agency head, former Lt. General Michael Flynn.
Flynn appears to now be working with Mueller as the probe moves him closer to President Trump, which is said to be making the president very nervous.
There is widespread speculation, particularly among Democrats, that the Republican complaints about Mueller are efforts to protect the president by either shutting the Special Counsel probe down or discrediting Mueller before any higher-ups in the White House are indicted.
“Democrats say the pattern is becoming clear,” reports Bloomberg News. “As Mr. Mueller moves closer to Mr. Trump’s inner circle, Republicans try to discredit the federal law enforcement and undercut the eventual findings of the special counsel.”
Per Painter, if there is a need for a second special counsel, it is not to get Mueller, but to look into what some in Congress are doing.
Today, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein told a Congressional committee that he does not believe Muller has done, or is doing, anything inappropriate.
Rosenstein, who has Justice Department oversight of the Special Counsel since Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the case, said he sees no need for a second special counsel because he sees no evidence of a crime, which is a criterion for hiring one and launching another probe.
“The special counsel’s investigation is not a witch hunt,” Rosenstein told the committee, referring to something Trump frequently claims in his tweets about Mueller’s investigation.
“If I thought he was doing something inappropriate,” added Rosenstein, “I’d take action.”
Painter, a Republican who is now teaching law at the University of Minnesota, tweeted out his view to school his fellow Republicans on the reality of the situation.
We do need a second special counsel — to investigate why Members of Congress are trying to impede the Russia investigation. Do they have a Putin issue too? If not, why are they doing this?https://t.co/avKkFURR1x
— Richard W. Painter (@RWPUSA) December 13, 2017
Painter did not mince words in a second earlier tweet either, warning that any move to push out Mueller at this point would be political suicide.
This attack on Mueller is obviously political. If Trump even tries to fire Mueller he's in big trouble.
Justice Dept. Deputy Defends Mueller From G.O.P. Attack https://t.co/avKkFURR1x
— Richard W. Painter (@RWPUSA) December 13, 2017
In his testimony today, Rosenstein said he had spoken to Mueller, reports the New York Times, and added, “we will ensure that no bias is reflected in any of the actions taken by the special counsel or in any matter within the jurisdiction of the Department of Justice.”
Democrats have not been shy about calling out Trump and his Republican supporters for their effort to discredit Mueller, who has worked methodically and carefully throughout the investigation.
The irony is that the things the Republicans complain about – including an FBI agent who tweeted to his girlfriend, and others who have made political donations to Democrats – are only public because Mueller acted to remove that person from his team immediately, showing he will not tolerate any bias or suggestion of favoritism.
“President Trump has engaged in a persistent and dangerous effort to discredit both the free press and the Department of Justice,” said Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), the top Democrat on the committee.
Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA), who has emerged as an outspoken critic of Trump in Congress and on Twitter, noted that there have been contributions to Republican candidates by top Justice Department officials, according to Bloomberg, including FBI Director Christopher Wrap and Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand.
Lieu said the Republican suggestion that by exercising a citizen’s right to make political donations means they are fatally prejudiced is a “silly argument” that reflects “the desperation that some people have” about Mueller’s probe.
The latest attacks by Republicans follow the release this week by Rosenstein of text messages by those who had worked for Mueller, which are now also the subject of an investigation by the Justice Department Inspector General.
Rosenstein, under intense questioning, confirmed he had released the texts to the lawmakers at their request in advance of the hearing after consulting with the Justice Department’s independent inspector general, Michael Horowitz, to make sure he wasn’t doing anything improper.
Rosenstein also then made the texts available to members of the media for viewing. In the past, this has been done rarely and almost always to avoid selective leaks for political purposes.
“Our goal, congressman,” said Rosenstein, “is to make sure that it is clear to you and the American people that we are not concealing anything that is embarrassing to the F.B.I.”
Rep. Nadler called the Republican demands for a second special counsel “wildly dangerous” to American institutions.
“I understand the instinct to want to give cover to the president,” said Nadler. “I am fearful that the majority’s effort to turn the tables on the special counsel will get louder and more frantic as the walls continue to close in around the president.”
However, if Trump or the Republicans somehow force out Mueller, or refuse to fund his investigations any further, there will be real noise from Congress and the American people, warns Painter, who also heads CREW (Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics In Washington).
President Trump will face swift political and legal fallout if he moves to oust Special Counsel Robert Mueller https://t.co/X9Mvxef55l
— Citizens for Ethics (@CREWcrew) December 13, 2017
Once again, the Republicans trying to defend the indefensible president are painting themselves as the ones who are really worried about their guilt being exposed.
DOJ should appoint a second special counsel to look into Russian involvement in Congressional campaigns. Mueller doesn't have time to look at all of them. We could have a House full of compromised members and not even know it.
— Richard W. Painter (@RWPUSA) December 14, 2017
As a Republican, a lawyer, a former government ethics expert, Painter has a unique position to see what is going on legally and in the political sense, and it is clear that he believes Mueller must be allowed to complete his investigation. This puts him in agreement with the majority of the American people today who want the truth about Trump to finally come out.